How and Why God 'Anoints'

Certain World Leaders

Did God 'Anoint' Josephus, Constantine and Winston Churchill?

A brief but absorbing consideration of a much neglected area of biblical and Christian doctrine.

ARTICLE QUOTE: "We should not forget that prophecy was fulfilled, and God's purpose served, in the destruction of the temple system. Jesus was clear that the destruction of Jerusalem would occur within a generation ('this generation shall not pass...' Matthew 24:34), from the time period of His ministry: AD 31-33-----AD70: one generation. Moreover, in stating that the Old Covenant was now obsolete, Hebrews 8:13 goes on to state that it would '...soon disappear.'"

Some people have a very 'black and white' understanding of how God might use people to fulfil His purposes. To such people, God used Isaiah, He used Jeremiah and He used the Apostles, but God (in this line of reasoning), has not 'worked with' anybody outside of the specific line of His priests, judges, prophets, and apostles, and those people who are brought into a relationship with God through their ministries. But this view is unscriptural for the Scriptures are actually quite clear that God has occasionally raised up people to fulfil His purposes within world history, and apparently outside of the community of the faithful. Scripture seems to indicate that our God has not, apparently, worked with these leaders in exactly the same personal and direct manner in which He has worked with true believers, yet He plainly has raised up some such people. How and why God may have worked with such people, and a few possible examples of that, are the subjects of this article.

Cyrus of Persia

A good 'kick-off' point here would be Cyrus of Persia. Holy Scripture even calls Cyrus by name - before he was born! See Isaiah 44:28 and also consider Isaiah 45:1-5:

'"This is what the LORD says to his anointed,

to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armour, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:

I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.

I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name."' (Isaiah 45:1-3, NIV throughout).


The careful Bible student may perceive at least three separate ways in which God uses and works with people:

1. God calls and selects for special divine and spiritual missions: Moses, Joshua, the Judges, the Prophets and the Apostles are in this category, which is a very small and select category. God demands absolute obedience from such people!

2. God calls and raises up certain world leaders at certain times in order to keep things on course in fulfilling His grand purposes for this world. These people are not called upon to specifically obey God (as in the first and third groups), yet there is no doubt that such people, including Cyrus of Persia, are given special protection at special times. We should not be too dismissive of this group, since God, let us not forget, is even prepared to call them 'His anointed.' Yet we should not expect any sort of moral perfection from a group which will include the good and the bad. He will use some leaders to punish, others to restore and possibly others for other purposes.

3. God, in a different manner again, calls Christians in our day to a specific mission to uphold the news that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world and to look to Jesus alone in trust and faith - that is our specific mission and purpose. Somewhat mistakenly, even if entirely sincerely, some Christians believe that their mission is to get the world converted; they are sincere, but very wrong; that goes well beyond what we have been asked to do during this age of the Church (Matthew 24:14; Acts 2:38-39; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Our calling to a life of faithfulness is somewhat like the first group but we occupy a lower position.
Robin A. Brace, 2007.

So here Cyrus is even referred to as the Lord's 'anointed' - yet it appears that God did not call Cyrus to a specific life of obedience and faithfulness, as He did with Moses or Isaiah. This reveals a different way in which God is also capable of working with various world leaders to fulfil His purposes upon this earth. Of course, as we now know, God used Cyrus to help destroy the old Babylonian empire and to bring about the freeing of large sections of Judah, Levi and Benjamin from their Babylonian captivity. See Isaiah 45:13.

Cyrus himself was well aware of his particular anointing:
'"This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you - may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem."'
(Ezra 1:2-3).

So this starts to show us that God may well work more widely with leaders in this world than a few might have thought. He is even prepared to refer to those world leaders whom He may raise up in order to fulfil His purposes as 'shepherds' (Isaiah 44:28), and 'His anointed' (Isaiah 45:1). In a not dissimilar manner, and a few years earlier, the Lord even refers to king Nebuchadnezzar as 'My servant' (Jeremiah 25:9; 27:6; 43:10). Of course, this refers to the specific period when the Lord used Nebuchadnezzar to punish His Own backsliding people.

'"I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon," says the LORD, "and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin."' (Jeremiah 25:9).

So God reserves the right to raise up certain world leaders at certain times in order to keep things on course in fulfilling His grand plan and purposes for this world. These people are not called upon to specifically obey God (as in the first and third groups of our inset article), and they may have little knowledge of God, yet there is no doubt that such people, including Cyrus of Persia, are given special protection at important times and, undoubtedly, even some angelic guidance. Furthermore, we should not be too dismissive of this group, since God, let us not forget, is even prepared to call them 'His anointed'! There could be many in this group and we can only speculate who might be included.

Vespasian and Josephus?

The Roman emperor Vespasian was quite possibly the 'Lord's anointed' in punishing the rebellious Jews in the Roman-Jewish War of AD66-70, although a few might find this line of thought objectionable. Interestingly, Josephus, the great Jewish historian, plainly recognised this and repeatedly warned his fellow Jews not to fight against the Romans since they were simply performing the will of God! (Source: Josephus, The Jewish War, translation by Thackeray, Harvard University Press, 1976, 111: 351–354. Vol. I–III, published in 1976). One cannot help but be reminded of Jeremiah's reluctant warning to his fellow Jews not to bring destruction on themselves by opposing the Babylonians! Jeremiah 32:5, for instance. The Lord had even warned Jeremiah not to pray for his people as the Babylonian threat loomed ever larger. See Jeremiah 7:16;11:14;14:11 for examples of this.

Did the Lord also use Josephus to warn the Jews that Rome should not be resisted?

Cyrus the Great

Vespasian was a comparatively gentle General who initially led the war against the Jews. He had a good relationship with Josephus after the latter predicted that he would become Roman emperor. The success of this prophecy made him more sympathetic towards Josephus and the Jews than he might otherwise have been, and Josephus even became official translator. This gave him some access to the suffering Jews whom he repeatedly warned about the consequences of their rebellion. But he would have had no access, and little influence but for his prophecy that Vespasian would become emperor. Since this plainly came to pass, the indications must be that God Himself gave this prophecy to Josephus in furtherance of working out His divine will. Interestingly, Josephus was related to the Hasmonean kings on his mother's side, and to a line of priests on his father's side so he seemed well placed to be influential.
When Vespasian's somewhat more gentle approach against the Jews did not work, and he was recalled to become emperor, the more tyrannical Titus (son of Vespasian), came to the fore to 'close out' the Jewish War and it was this man who would finally destroy Jerusalem in AD70. Yes, unpalatable though it may be for some, even Titus could possibly be 'the Lord's anointed' in the sense of carrying out divine will, horrible though it was; don't forget that even Nebuchadnezzar (the Lord's 'servant' in punishing the Jews), was a cruel despot. We should not forget that prophecy was fulfilled, and God's purpose served, in the destruction of the temple system. Jesus was clear that the destruction of Jerusalem would occur within a generation ('this generation shall not pass...' Matthew 24:34), from the time period of His ministry: AD 31-33-----AD70: one generation. Moreover, in stating that the Old Covenant was now obsolete, Hebrews 8:13 goes on to state that it would '...soon disappear.' The disappearance and destruction of the temple made continued prescribed Old Covenant observance impossible. Judaism was a patchwork quilt effort to keep Jewish Yahweh worship alive in a situation in which it was deprived of a temple, but true Old Covenant worship was actually impossible with no divinely-approved temple.

So people like Josephus, who kept accurate records for us all to read, Vespasian and even Titus may have had a part to play as 'God's servants' in those tragic and tumultuous times. Josephus is particularly interesting because, apart from providing a clear historical record of Jerusalem's AD70 destruction, this Jewish historian also undoubtedly served a divine purpose in providing a clear - non-biblical - testimony of the existence of Jesus. In Jewish Antiquities he refers not only to Jesus and to Christians but also to the martyrdom of James, the brother of Jesus. Some have scoffed at Josephus because he simply states what he knows without attacking Jesus or Christianity which, some feel, that - as a Jew - he should have done but, altogether, the account of Josephus has gained credibility over the last few years. Also, many Jews view him as a traitor for assisting the Romans against the Jews at the siege of Jerusalem, however, this appears to be a long way from what actually happened! Josephus stood with the Jews until it became plain to him that God was using the Romans to punish them - similar, perhaps, to the experience of Jeremiah. Then he was keen to speak to the Romans and to act as mediator although in the end, he could do little. Some Jews also remain bitter that Josephus pulled out of an earlier suicide pact with other Jewish prisoners but, as a Pharisee, Josephus knew that the law of God did not allow for suicide; it is possible that he was only playing for time in entering into such an unwise pact.

Emperor Constantine?

We may well speculate about other world leaders who served as 'God's anointed' in order to fulfil His specific purposes within world history at certain periods.

Defeat of the Spanish Armada, 1588-08-08 by Philippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg, painted 1797.

Is there not a sovereign God in heaven who is the real decider of those momentous battles which will decide the course of world history for, perhaps, hundreds of years?

Many Christians spend time discussing whether 4th century Roman emperor Constantine was really converted or not (the probability is that he was not), because they have not noted the various biblically-revealed ways in which God may use people. But there is actually powerful evidence that God did indeed raise up emperor Constantine to serve as 'God's anointed' or, 'God's servant' for that period of time in which he served the divine will. It was Constantine whom God surely used to bring to an end the cruel suffering involved in the Christian persecution of the 4th century Roman Empire. It matters not to us whether Constantine was genuinely converted at that time (probably not, but God alone knows), but the evidence that God raised him up for a purpose and that he became a 'shepherd' or 'divine servant' is abundant. Constantine had several visions. These can appear in different forms according, perhaps, to the original translation of the event, but his seeing of a fiery burning cross in the sky accompanied by the words, 'By This Conquer' seems especially interesting, and it is clear that it had a dramatic effect upon him. None of this makes him a paragon of virtue of course and few of these men have been. There is also strong evidence that God used this man to keep heresy out of the first empire-wide organised and persecution-free church, for he took an active part in those first 4th century church councils which clearly recognised and categorized heretical teachings. Today we recognise that those creeds were amazingly doctrinally sound. Highly imperfect though he may have been, there is evidence that this servant of God finally did personally accept and embrace Jesus Christ in his last few hours of life upon this earth.

Two Vital 16th Century Victories

In the 16th century two vital battles occurred in Europe. First of all, the overwhelming Victory of the Holy League (mainly the Papacy, Spain and Venice), over the Ottomans at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 protected the future of western Europe against Islamic expansionist plans.

Secondly, the defeat of the Spanish Armada off the coast of the British Isles in 1588 ensured that Protestant England would remain Protestant England and become the main seat of Protestant evangelicalism for a few hundred years.

Can we doubt that commander Don Juan of Austria at Lepanto and, later, perhaps Sir John Hawkins and Sir Francis Drake in England, stood in the role of 'God's anointed' in helping to decide the outcomes to these decisive battles? Did a Sovereign God actually guide, direct and even give angelic support to their vital campaigns? In the case of the Spanish Armada, of course, dramatic weather did as much to scupper the king of Spain's plans as did Sir Francis Drake. Angelic intervention? More on the vital Battle of Lepanto defeat of the Islamic warriors Here.

Winston Churchill?

We may speculate further: There is real evidence that Second World War British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is part of this group, and possibly Roosevelt too. They were raised up to be the right men at the right time to defeat Nazi Germany when eternal destiny dictated that the time was right after millions of prayers for peace had reached heaven.

A Man Who Made a Difference...

Sir Winston Churchill.

Interestingly, in the case of Churchill, though he never claimed to be a religious man, he made several comments to the effect that he knew and fully understood that God had raised him up for a specific purpose at a specific time, including his famous 'I felt that I was walking with destiny' comment. Even long before World War II Churchill had been active in warning the British Parliament that Hitler wanted war and that the British people should be prepared, but his voice had been ignored and ridiculed. He was a wholly decent man, yet it may give us more problems to note that the tyrant Josef Stalin could also have been serving God's will during the Second World War and could have been allowed space and a degree of divine protection in order to further his purposes in helping to defeat Nazi Germany, for it was unquestionably Russia's valiant counter-attack against the Germans which signalled the beginning of the end for Hitler.

Why did God want Germany defeated at that time? It is speculation, of course, but let us note the following: There are no 'favoured peoples,' but it is the British and Americans who have probably done more than any other peoples to send Protestant Bibles and Protestant Christian missionaries all around the world and God may well have recognised that fact, and the fact that He may have wanted a few more years evangelistic work to be carried out before the curtain finally closes on this Church age. This would necessitate the defeat of Germany (in which Nazi propagandists were at work plotting to replace Lutheranism with a new paganism), and the defeat of non-Christian emperor-worship Japan with its Buddhist tendencies. If those two countries had triumphed, a new anti-Christian imperialism would have swept the world and Christian worship would probably have been banned by 1950. If the Axis powers had succeeded, a new Dark Ages would have dawned which would have made the original Dark Ages seem like a June picnic. Cruelty, savagery and the subjugation of the weak would have come to be looked upon as noble enterprises.

There are certainly other world leaders whom one may speculate about but such speculation only takes one so far. One day we will know for sure how many world leaders have served for certain periods as God's 'anointed,' in bringing to pass certain divinely-ordained events and I think that there will be some surprises for us all when we finally learn all of the facts.

Robin A. Brace, 2007.